You don’t have to be with your family for Christmas to enjoy traditions. Monastic communities have Christmas traditions, of their own, some going back a few years and some hundreds of years.
In Duluth, we decorate the Monastery offices and cloister on Wednesday of the Third Week in Advent. In the Formation area, where I live with the other junior Sisters awaiting their Perpetual Monastic Profession, it is up to the most recent member to decorate our living room and kitchenette. Right now that is me.
I do miss my old traditions. As a laywoman I lived in a home at the edge of the woods in northern Michigan. I would put up a tree cut from a nearby tree lot, usually a white fir, and my mother and I would decorate it on a cold evening, with snow falling outside and the stars glowing in a dark sky. (Yes, those two events are incompatible, but that is the image that stays with me.) The decorations were ones I had collected over the years. Some went back to my childhood, from those first trees of magic and wonder.
Now my mother is in Heaven and I am a Benedictine living 500 miles away from my old home, but the tree is decorated with the same love and care. This year I added a string of white mini lights to temper last year’s deep blue lights, which were a little hard on the eyes. The colors cast beautiful patterns of light and shadow onto the walls and ceiling. Last night I watched It’s a Wonderful Life, while addressing Christmas cards for another Sister, who had injured her hands and so dictated a letter for me to send.
Christmas in Community! It is indeed a wonderful life!
Sister Therese Carson
Therese was born in Detroit, Michigan and spent many years as a microbiologist in Harbor Springs, Michigan before coming to Duluth. She had heard a call to vocation since she was young, and found the courage to surrender to it when her faith in God caught fire and became deep love. She made her First Profession on August 31, 2014, at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota, and looks forward with joy to becoming a perpetually professed Benedictine. She believes with Albert Einstein that, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.“